Seeking Spiritual Renewal During a Busy, Sometimes Painful, Joyful and News-Filled Summer

There’s this set of feelings in September where you’re caught between being excited for the new ministry year and very much overwhelmed by it.

On some level the summer has moved too fast, you had barely caught your breath from the end of the last ministry year, further compounded by the mass exodus of the summer which generally creates a bit more work for you, and although you got away for a week with your family, you returned to an enormous backlog of emails, an enormous to-do list and maybe an ambush or two.

All this added with the new goals, objectives and some fresh vision you wish to see happen in the fall, with the difficulty of recruiting leaders and volunteers in the summer, well, then it’s understandable why we show up in September excited yet overwhelmed.

Naturally, we all want the summer to bring rest and relaxation, to sip lemonade, to watch movies, to tan, to recreate, to take leisurely walks, to enjoy an adrenaline rush or two then relax again. The summer is supposed to be a well-deserved break from the constant busyness brought about from the last 9 months.

But the rest and relaxation never really happens the way we want it to, even you drank a 100 gallons of lemonade, got caught up on your Netflix queue, got tanned, got leisured, got me adrenaline rushing and then “relaxed” again. I just don’t know any one who says on Labor Day weekend, “Well, this summer went by perfectly slow and I am relaxed and now ready to go!”

We have 3 kids 5 and under – our oldest is beginning Kindergarten. Right now, we are in a stretch of 4 straight weeks of weddings, three of which I am officiating. One of the weddings is in FL so after that we went to Disney. Our central AC broke during the last heat wave. We have some summer goals for our house, we just got a piano and I have this thing where I want to read, write, blog, and some personal things I want to get out of my system before the ministry year begins again and when I’m not moving on these things, I get moody.

This is why last month I said this summer I was not looking for rest but renewal. I know I can’t cross all these things off my list. I know this is the way life is and the only thing that really keeps chaining is the list. One day my youngest will begin college, there will be another stretch where I will be attending and officiating more funerals than weddings, my furnace will break, we’ll have different summer goals, there will be a different reading list and different set of projects and inefficiency and unproductively will probably still cause me to be a bit moody.

Still, I think I am finding “traces of renewal” but of course not in the way I am expecting it.

This summer I’ve been caught up in a few things like the second Egyptian revolution. Which has led to learning more about human rights, the abuse of power, what society is actually capable of and the nature of justice. Which of course, brings up the Zimmerman verdict and conversations of racism, reverse-racism, media-hype and our judicial system to name a few. I’ve been particularly focused on how it’s so easy for us to hate each other, how the chasm of disunity seems to grow and how content we are to live with such division in our country, in our churches, sometimes even within our families.

Admittedly, it’s tempting to avoid all this and “just try to take it easy this summer” because we’re always going to have a crisis in the Middle East, there will always be corruption, blatant abuses of power, countless injustices, the media will always find a problem and when they can’t, they will simply create one. There will aways be disunity and division so why not take the summer off?

I’ve been trying to avoid some naïve vision of utopia where everyone is in complete harmony singing Taylor Swift together (the new “Kumbaya”). I have never been interested in a world where everyone agrees with each other and all opinions are identical and as much as I believe the story of Jesus is the most life-giving of narratives, I have never fallen for the notion that we are all to have the same creeds and convictions. I am a fan of plurality, I appreciate diversity and I am humbled by paradox. But all that said, all our depictions of hatred, corruption, injustice and division are sad sights to see. I realize the world is broken, we broke it, but I wrestle with how much more damage we can afflict on one another.

Further, you can’t take a summer off from pain and tragedy. My summer began with the loss of an old friend. Recently a family we care about spent the week in the pediatrics ICU with their infant son and last night we read on Facebook of dear friends whose 3 year old was air-lifted to a hospital due to a bunk bed accident. People are praying, people are supporting, medicine is working, everyone is hanging in there but if you desire to live in community, you can’t take 3 months off from pain and tragedy.

And I think this is where I am finding these traces of renewal. By further exposing my expectations, my sense of entitlement, even my noble desire to begin the ministry year with a pure spiritual heart, a clear mind and a body full of energy, I’m discovering (or maybe relearning) that renewal is not found by taking time off exactly but by leaning into the realities around us and re-posturing our souls to God’s vision of peace, joy, love and life.

One more month of summer to go – hoping to keep moving in this direction.  Feel free to share what you are discovering or relearning this summer  – your thoughts are always welcomed.

Speak Your Mind